Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane “pill-flipping” life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.

Do Pharmacy School Rankings Really Matter?

FEBRUARY 07, 2016
When considering a pharmacy school, future pharmacists are concerned about a number of factors that include but are by no means limited to location, cost, graduation rate, student-teacher ratio, housing, and job placement assistance programs.
 
A particular pharmacy program’s rank against other schools is another factor that may influence a prospective student’s decision. But do these rankings really matter?
 
U.S. News & World Report—a widely known provider of educational institution rankings—sends peer assessment surveys to deans, administrators, and faculty at accredited pharmacy schools to determine how schools stack up. The schools are rated from 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding) on the quality of their pharmacy programs.
 
I’m not privy to the nitty-gritty details of this methodology, but I don’t believe that most prospective pharmacy school students are concerned about what deans, administrators, and faculty think about a particular school. Plus, each dean is biased toward his or her own program.
 
Prospective students are most concerned about what current and past students think about the program and what the school can offer in terms of financial aid, job placement, and industry experience.
 
I also believe that prospective pharmacy students are better served by finding a school that is a great fit, rather than getting hung up on rankings that claim to identify the “highest quality” pharmacy programs.
 
Of course, the quality of an educational program is important. After all, students want to be properly prepared to head into the workforce with great job prospects. Because most students will take out large student loans and continue paying for their education long into their professional careers, it is critical that they are able to compete in the job market.
 
However, there are many other factors to consider when choosing a pharmacy school. Prospective students should ask themselves the following questions:
  • Does the program fit my budget?
  • What kind of financial aid am I being offered?
  • Does the program offer classes that fit my schedule?
  • What do current students have to say about the program?
  • What kind of internship and job placement opportunities are available?
When a prospective pharmacy student eventually graduates and interviews for a job or residency, chances are the interview panel has no idea about pharmacy school rankings. Soft skills such as interviewing, public speaking, and communication; a polished curriculum vitae; work experience; and good grades will have far more bearing on hiring decisions than where a candidate went to school.
 
When I was applying to pharmacy school, I didn’t worry about rankings. Instead, I focused on finding a program that was a good fit for my individual circumstances and offered the things that were important to me.
 
School rankings do count when it comes to research opportunities. Higher-ranked schools generally have more opportunities for students to gain research experience, which residency panels and competitive job markets love.
 
Still, I want to debunk the myth that a high-ranking school guarantees a job.
 
Although rankings might be somewhat helpful early on in a prospective pharmacy student’s search, I don’t believe that they should be heavily considered when making final attendance decisions.
 
What matters more than your school’s rank? Your hustle, natural talent, and personality.
 
The bottom line is, it doesn’t really matter where you receive your PharmD because your career success doesn’t depend on where you went to school, but instead on your knowledge, competence, soft skills, and experience.

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